I watched The Knollwood Boys progress through The Acoustic LIVE Challenge from my front row seat on the judges panel. In a splendid show of musical diversity much different than their first-round performance, the band returned to the semi-finals weeks later with a discernibly revamped set. By the time they performed their third (and challenge-winning) show, The Knollwood Boys had won enough fans to earn the title of Acoustic LIVE Challenge champions. As part of their winning prize package, The Boys scored an automatic time slot at this year’s Mojostock.
Having started my relationship with The Knollwood Boys off on a somewhat uneasy rapport (read on for more details), I was anxious to talk with them in a more relaxed environment- with mics, instruments, and crowds out of the equation. Below, we chat about the band’s beginnings and I find out how they discovered their name (hint: it’s not connected to the same Berkley Avenue Knoll that Knollfest is associated with), and more.
MOJO: Your facebook profile makes it out to sound like the band just kind of casually came together to start playing cover songs. Is that how it happened?
KIT: A couple years ago Brent* (our guitarist), Steve, and I would get together just to play at somebody’s house and jam a little bit. Never really did anything with it or played anywhere. I was working at Applebee’s last summer and they decided to have a black light party. Somebody volunteered me to play, so I got Nate and Brent. It was just the three of us to begin with. I think Steve came to that first show.
*Brent was unable to attend the interview.
STEVE: Yea, they did such an awesome job, I was real amazed. I was like, “You need a bassist. I’m in, for sure.” I was in another rap/rock type band (Gambit’s Disciples) and I wasn’t too happy with it. This was more my style of music. More fitting to my tastes.
MOJO: Alright. So you were playing Applebee’s black light parties once a month. When did you become “The Knollwood Boys”?
KIT: Up until recently, I lived around 64th and Grandview, northwest of Broad Ripple. The street that I lived on was called Woodknoll. And we’d been brainstorming.
STEVE: We pretty much changed names every show. Kind of like Andy on Parks and Recreation; he’s always changing his name, you know? Then one day, Kit and I were sitting around brainstorming and he lived on Woodknoll and Grandview. “Well, Grandview sounds kind of cool..” But we looked it up and there’s already a band named Grandview and we wanted to keep it original. And he misprounced Woodknoll and said Knollwood. And I was like, “The Knollwood Boys. Let’s keep it folky.”
MOJO: So, Steve was in Gambit’s Disciples. Any other prior band experience before The Knollwood Boys?
STEVE: Kit and I were roommates ever since college and we had a “never get out of the living room” band called The Kinky Hose.
MOJO: What kind of musical upbringings do you have?
NATE: I started percussion when I was 12 and started taking lessons when I was thirteen. When I got to high school, I entered into drum line where I competed with Center Grove High School for three years. That really got me into performing to vast crowds. But aside from that, this is the first situation where I’ve been performing with a four-person band like this.
KIT: We started The Kinky Hose in college. Steve played bass, our other buddy played guitar… so we needed drums. So I was like, “How hard could it be?” I bought some drums and played them in the band. After college, my buddy didn’t want his guitar anymore, so he sold it to me. It sat in the corner for a long time. And then about three or four years ago, I picked it up and started teaching myself how to play.
STEVE: I played the trombone as my first instrument in 6th grade, then I moved on to the tuba later. I got my first bass when I was a freshman in high school. I kind of steered toward the bass because of the bass clef instruments that I had already played.
MOJO: Let’s talk about The Acoustic LIVE Challenge. As a judge, I remember saying after your first performance that you felt like “an emotional boy band who only wants to sing about being in love” and I challenged you to come back with something else if that’s not the image you were going for. So, what was your game plan coming into the semi-finals?
STEVE: Well, we didn’t know you were going to be this pleasant woman who was going to be interviewing us, but the second time around, it was like, “Well, let’s shove it in her face.” We believe we’re a good band and you kind of just drug us through the dirt. But we still moved on to the next round. It was also nerve-racking because it was the first time we knew people were actually judging us. But once you broke that barrier, it was a little easier.
KIT: I think that as it progressed, we learned how to build a better set list. There were certain songs we knew we wanted to save so we could break them out in the second round.
MOJO: Did you write new material for the second round?
KIT: The rap was one of the first new things that we wrote. Three total throughout the span of the contest.
STEVE: I’d also like to thank you for pushing me to get the acoustic bass. It’s been wonderful. I’ve never had one before, and now I just sit around and play it all over the place. I’ve always talked about it and now I finally have one.
The Knollwood Boys are using their recently-acquired studio time at Winn Studios (part of their handsome Acoustic LIVE Challenge price package) to rework and fine-tune the album of songs they’ve previously recorded. Steve suggests the possibility of a half-electric/half-acoustic album. “We were originally acoustic and Nate was playing on his cajon for the first six or seven months,” Webb says. “We didn’t realize he could actually play the drums. When you see that at Mojostock, you’ll really see. Man, he can jam.”
From there, I asked the band if they were excited for Mojostock. One admitted to never having attended a music festival while another cited multiple Bonnaroo’s, one Rothbury, and one Nelson Ledges Quarry Park on his list of accomplishments. Their massive following of friends, family, and fans are expected to be at Mojostock to support and the band plans to hang around for the weekend.
Catch their set Saturday, July 30th from 1pm – 2:30pm on the Jam Stage.